Flavor Flav Takes A Back Seat On 'Rebirth'

By Kyle Lund,

I remember my buddy playing me and some guys "Fear of a Black Planet" right after it came out. Being a little metal-head then, I had never heard anything like it, and never forgot that moment.

Public Enemy was one of a handful of bands that got me to open up my ears. I liked what I heard back then. I actually got to see Public Enemy strut their stuff once, opening for U2. Not a bad show, but I would have rather seen them in a sweaty club (come to think of it, same with U2).

Public Enemy made news last fall for "Hell No We Ain't All Right," a protest against George Bush's questionable response to the Hurricane Katrina tragedy. The follow up to that is PE's new record "Rebirth of a Nation" (Guerrilla Funk Recordings). It's their 11th record, a collaboration with rapper Paris, who also runs the label.

Chuck D is the force behind PE, and a voice to be reckoned with. Chuck makes the point early in "Rise" that things haven't changed much since he's been recording music. Yet, Paris and Chuck, no matter what the conscious-raising subject is, remain ultimately positive in the messages they are conveying. Looking forward, keep fighting the power, and never surrender.

Musically, Rebirth of a Nation is a powerful record. Paris has a thing for the Superfly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield. Many samples early on the record are a fitting tribute to the late, groundbreaking artist. Yet, just when the music starts to get predictable a different song emerges with a new sound.

How about "Flavor Flav?" He may be known more today for his reality show success than his rappin' skills. Flav does takes a back seat on Rebirth of a Nation, letting Paris take over for the most part. The two tunes he stands out on "They Call Me Flavor"and "Invisible Man" are very far from each other in spirit. The first is a throw-away, the second is one of the best on the record.

Flav was part of the manic escalation that was Fear of a Black Planet years ago.. They could have used a little of Flav's flavor to flesh this one out. The bottom line is this: Chuck D. not only still has plenty to say, he still has one of the boldest, coolest voices in music today. Listen for it on WSUW.

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